WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden plans to speak with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu soon, the White House said on Thursday without providing a date.
Biden’s failure to include Netanyahu so far in his calls with foreign leaders has raised eyebrows in Israel and among Middle East experts. Former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both spoke to him within days of taking office.
“The president looks forward to speaking with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He’s obviously somebody that he has a long-standing relationship with,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a news briefing.
Having been in lockstep with Trump for four years, Netanyahu will likely be challenged by any Biden departure from Trump’s tough policy on Iran and towards the Palestinians.
Biden has pledged to restore U.S. involvement in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal – which Trump had pulled out of – and likely opposition by the White House to Israeli settlement of occupied land where Palestinians seek statehood.
Trump delighted Netanyahu by quitting the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposing sanctions on it that had been lifted in return for limits on activities that could, potentially, produce nuclear weapons in the future.
“Obviously there’s an important relationship that the United States has with Israel on the security front and as a key partner in the region,” Psaki said. “He’ll be talking with him soon – I don’t have a specific date or time for you on that call yet.”
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Steve Holland; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Howard Goller)